By Pete Wurdock

Inside the Luce County Animal Shelter, many small hearts are waiting for a new home. One bigger heart has found her home there.

Gloria Caswell is the shelter manager for the no-kill shelter, which took 10 years to build and opened in 2020. Before she rehomed animals from the shelter, she volunteered with Pet Pals and got them adopted out while working in Bonnie Kilburn’s State Farm Insurance Agency.

“I’ve been an animal lover all my life and I’ve had some of my best days and worst days here,” Caswell said.

Caswell maintains a staff of two part-time employees, with one more part-time employee currently sought, 15 steady volunteers and additional volunteers who come in occasionally. The shelter has an annual approved budget of $113,230, which covers salaries, maintenance, utilities, food, veterinary services, and other needed items. The shelter also uses private donations to cover day-to-day costs.

She has her hand in all pet adoptions from the shelter and reviews applications carefully. Since the start of the project, they’ve taken in 136 cats and 82 dogs. They have adopted out 104 cats and have had successful adoptions for 30 dogs. Some of the animals that come in are strays and are returned to their homes. The shelter does not pick up stray dogs; they are brought in from members of the community or law enforcement officials.

Most of the cats that end up at the shelter are strays. A majority of the dogs are surrendered by people who can no longer take care of their pet, along with strays that people do not claim. Others that are brought in are reclaimed by their owners.

When dogs come into the shelter, a majority of them are not spayed or neutered so the first call to order is to get their medical needs taken care of. A network of veterinary care is provided by Dr. Cheryl Makowski of the Newberry Animal Hospital, Dr. Cindy Anderson in Sault Ste. Marie, the Thompson Veterinary Clinic in Manistique, and Best Life Veterinary Services, a mobile vet clinic. All of these professionals help the cause by offering reduced fees for the shelter.

The shelter started a partnership with the Newberry Correctional Facility last September to help get the dogs ready for adoption. Each canine receives the necessary shots as well as getting microchipped before they are transported to the Correctional Facility. The dogs are housed at the prison where they are taught important commands and given behavioral training. The shelter provides the food, treats, and vet care.

“We really enjoy working with them and couldn’t be happier with the results,” Caswell said. “Five dogs have been adopted since we entered the obedience training program at NCF. It makes them so much more adoptable and such better pets and it has made a big difference.”

So do the volunteers at the shelter itself. They’re the bones of the structure as much as Caswell is the heart.

“The primary role of our volunteers is to provide animal care, particularly with the cats,” Gloria explains. “The cages need to be cleaned, the animals need to be fed and there are also things like cleaning the rooms, and doing laundry and dishes and they do it all. But we certainly could use more volunteers, especially dog walkers.”

Two shelter volunteers, Cora Bufford and Ryan Metzler of Newberry shared this about their experience. “When we got the opportunity to job train during our senior year, we immediately knew we wanted to help out at the shelter,” they said. “One of the best things about being at the shelter every day is getting to work with the animals and watch their improvement. Seeing the animals when they first come in to getting a new home is something we are grateful to take part in. Just being able to help out is a very rewarding experience.”

“So many people that are involved and help here are amazing people,” she said, “and I’m truly grateful for each and every one of them.”

If you are wondering how you can help, Gloria has a wish list. At the top of the list are cat cages. Everyday needs include cat litter, cat food, dog food, paper towels, laundry soap, and volunteers, especially dog walkers. An wish list can be viewed at (case sensitive). You can also support the shelter by selecting them as your designated charity within Amazon Smile, which will send .05% of the value of each qualifying Amazon purchase to the shelter.

Because of COVID restrictions and hours of operation, all adoptions require an appointment. Costs for adoption are $75 for cats and kittens with an additional $15 for microchipping, which goes to Pet Pals because they pay for the microchipping. It is $100 to adopt a dog, plus $15 for microchipping.